Fitz-George Avenue Apartment

A British-American couple looking to retire in London sought out Vine Architecture Studio to breathe new life into a ground floor apartment, now a fresh and timeless space ready for their future.

With high ceilings and generous proportions, this ground floor apartment in West Kensington had all the hallmarks of the grandeur which was typical of Victorian and Edwardian mansion blocks of the time.

Our clients (a British / American couple) lived in California and had decided to retire. They wanted to spend more time in London to be close to family and friends. The apartment appealed to them as they wanted a project to make their own and were also drawn to the accessible nature of this lateral ground floor apartment. Finding the property in a dated and unloved condition, we were appointed to breathe life into it with alterations that complemented the age and design of the architecture but which felt fresh and timeless.

Our approach from the outset was to reimagine the flow and connectivity of spaces. Being on the ground floor of a late Victorian mansion block, 500mm thick solid masonry walls were not uncommon and any decisions regarding structural alterations to walls or widening of openings needed to be taken in the knowledge that substantial temporary propping and lintels or box frames could be needed in order to realise this idea. Converting a three bedroom into a two bedroom apartment afforded us more space for living accommodation and allowed for a generous en-suite master bathroom. Forming openings either side of the chimney breast transformed the relationship between the kitchen and living rooms, while widening the doorway between the entrance corridor and living room bestowed a natural hierarchy between the more public and private spaces. We opted for translucent glass doors or screens between spaces to bring an ethereal quality to the openings.

We rethought the entire configuration of rooms and spaces and altered the nature of the flow between spaces to create connectivity in previously isolated spaces. A bedroom became a kitchen, another became the bathroom, and the kitchen became a bedroom. We rearranged the master suite, in order to address modern requirements for sleeping and dressing. We proposed to the client that making a secondary doorway from the main room into the kitchen would make more sense of the relationship between the two rooms. Doorways were made taller and wider and the entrance from hallway to dining room was enhanced with a double door.

Our focus was on making dignified enhancements to internal features without losing their distinctive proportions. We were keen to ensure that any changes succeeded in bringing a contemporary feel which augmented the original character of the apartment without overriding it. Much consideration was given to the interior detailing and decoration and we pursued a careful selection process to choose finishes for each space which resulted in a complementary material palette across the whole interior that was subtle and expressive.

An Eero Saarinen breakfast table and Eames dining chairs and table purposefully fit the bay window and dining space and bring subtle curves and elegance which we feel the space deserves. The light fittings are ceiling mounted and tubular but adjustable to be able to highlight artworks. The joinery is white washed birch plywood, often curved and topped with Carrara marble, and the kitchen surfaces and kitchen shelves are a mid-grey polished concrete. We have defined the circulation spaces with classic chequer board floor tiles while the living spaces and bedrooms have light oak floorboards. The utility room is concealed behind a hidden bookshelf door.

The needs of 21st century living can be satisfied in period properties when careful consideration is given to a design response. Early conversations with the client served as a catalyst and helped to inform and enrich our design solution for this particular project.

Design: Vine Architecture Studio
Photography: Sara Moiola